(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – On November 15, quit smoking. That’s the simple message behind the American Cancer Society’s 37th Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday in November each year.

Despite tobacco use remaining the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, nearly 1 in 5 US adults smoke, or about 45 million people. An additional 15.4 million smoke cigars and tobacco in pipes.

More than 80% of lung cancer deaths—lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women—are believed to result from smoking. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and bladder and has been linked to development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary (mucinous), colon/rectum, kidney, stomach, and some types of leukemia.

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“The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew from a 1971 event in Randolph, MA, at which Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund,” the American Cancer Society stated.

In 1974, Minnesota spearheaded the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day. “The idea caught on, and on November 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society got nearly 1 million smokers to quit for the day. That California event marked the first Great American Smokeout, and the Society took the program nationwide in 1977. Since then, there have been dramatic changes in the way society views tobacco advertising and tobacco use. Many public places and work areas are now smoke-free – this protects non-smokers and supports smokers who want to quit.”

The American Cancer Society notes several important milestones in anti-tobacco efforts, including Berkeley, CA, becoming the first community to limit smoking in restaurants and other public places, in 1977; the federal ban on smoking on interstate buses and domestic flights of 6 hours or less, in 1990; and the 1999 passage of the Master Settlement Agreement, which required “tobacco companies to pay $206 billion to 45 states by the year 2025 to cover Medicaid costs of treating smokers.” This agreement “also closed the Tobacco Institute and ended cartoon advertising and tobacco billboards.”

In 2009, The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the Food and Drug Administration “the authority to regulate the sale, manufacturing, and marketing of tobacco products and protects children from the tobacco industry’s marketing practices.”

Since 1965, cigarette smoking among adults has decreased from greater than 42% to about 20%. Smokers are most successful at quitting when they have support. The American Cancer Society provides free tips and tools to help patients quit smoking, including anti-smoking programs and a “cigarette cost calculator.” Patients may also call 1-800-227-2345 for support.